Orlando Massacre: United in Pain

In Buzz, July 2016 / August 2016by Alexandra Drosu

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An essay by Matt Cozzi, General Manager of Legends Nightclub

When I first got word of the horrible tragedy that happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando my stomach churned and my heart sank. I have friends in the Orlando area that frequented Pulse. I began texting and calling them to make sure they where ok and to see if anyone we knew was involved, and what I could do to help. It scares me to think you can be who you are in a safe place, essentially defenseless, while someone chooses to target you in such a pathetic and hurtful act. It scares me that such a low level of human being exists and that this terrible tragedy can occur anywhere, including here.

Legends Nightclub just celebrated its 25th anniversary on Friday, June 18th, and during those 25 years it has been a staple in the LGBTQ community. Before online dating apps and sites existed, there where few places a member of the LGBTQ community could go to meet others and to feel safe and welcomed. Legends Nightclub is a private club for the LGBTQ community and it’s allies, and we maintain this format so that we can continue providing a safe and welcoming environment. Legends does welcome guests but asks that they understand and accept the environment that exists. They are welcome as long as they are respectful.

On Sunday morning after the attack James Miller of the LGBT Center of Raleigh contacted me and we discussed holding a candlelight vigil for our brothers and sisters we lost in Orlando. We decided that it would be best done at Legends since our club and Pulse address similar needs in the community and even offer a similar layout. The 300 plus people that came and showed their support showed the strength of our community and was a much-needed positive at this time.

In handling the logistics for the vigil, safety was very much a concern. To know that something so extreme could happen made me concerned that it could happen again and that a vigil at a gay club could be seen as a target. I picked up my phone and I called my contact at Raleigh Police Department (RPD) and the first thing I heard was, “I am sorry and we are here to help make sure this never happens here.”

To know that this tragedy has captured everyone’s attention and that everyone I spoke to stood with us, united to protect each other, was overwhelming. I was in constant contact with the Raleigh Police Department leadership and the level of security that was provided surpassed my expectations. The Legends parking lot during our vigil was the safest spot in Raleigh.

I am working with RPD to evaluate Legends’ procedures and policies in regards to not only an active shooter situation but also other emergency type situations. Working closely with RPD has allowed my personal, as well as Legends, relationship with the department grow stronger. RPD has already increased patrols and officer presence around Legends and will be providing recommendations to changes that are identified that could make for a safer place. I personally take pride in providing a safe, non-judgmental space for all those that come through the club doors and have made this effort the highest of my priorities.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who are lost and have been affected by this senseless and cowardly act of violence. Together we will stand united and show that our love is stronger than hate.

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